Tax dollars for tap waters 

With all of the debating, commenting and voting at Missoula City Council meetings, the smaller details can go unnoticed. Like the bottled water in front of each council member.

Recently the council’s water of choice has been Pepsi Co.’s Aquafina, which has been in the news lately because Pepsi will soon begin labeling its bottles with the water’s sources. Aquafina is filtered municipal tap water.

The water consumed at recent Monday-night City Council meetings comes from Denver.

But before your mind burbles over with images of tranquil mountain springs, like the one portrayed on the Aquafina bottle, focus on the image of a faucet––a faucet in Denver––because that’s where our Aquafina comes from.

The water is bought in bulk with tax dollars from the city’s general fund. Aquafina costs $6.99 for 24 16.9-ounce bottles at the Safeway on Broadway, where City Clerk Marty Rehbein says it’s purchased.

Ward 3 Councilman Bob Jaffe has noticed the plastic bottles, and recently asked Rehbein if the city could purchase water bottled closer to Missoula.

“Those bottles get trucked in herefrom thousands of miles away…the little bottles of water seemed symbolic of waste,” Jaffe said in an interview Tuesday. Apparently no one has asked why council doesn’t just use the drinking fountain down the hall.

Aquafina, or bottled Denver municipal tap water, may have more downsides than sustainability arguments would indicate, however.

According to Deborah Lapidus, a national organizer of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, bottled water gets less regulatory scrutiny than tap water. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water, while an under-staffed Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, she says.

“This has led to contaminants getting into bottled water and being consumed for months without anyone noticing,” she says.

Arvid Hiller, vice-president and general manager of Mountain Water Company in Missoula, says he drinks unfiltered Missoula tap water.

“When you buy a bottle of water, where does it come from?” he asks. “How was it handled?”

If it’s Aquafina in Missoula, it came from Denver by truck.
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